Looking at the Stockade and the rest of the Electric City through a camera lens helped David Giacalone to see the place a bit differently.
“I don’t know if I otherwise would have appreciated the Stockade,” Giacalone said.
This month, others can look through that same lens with “Beauty Along the Mohawk: Scenes of Schenectady through an artful photographer’s lens,” a show including 25 of his photographs at Moon and River Cafe, 115 S. Ferry St.
Some Schenectady residents may know Giacalone more as a gadfly than a photographer; he makes his voice heard in City Hall and within the Stockade Association on various issues, including on the Lady Liberty statue, the cutting down of trees, and the facades of buildings on State Street, among others.
However, he doesn’t speak up out of a dislike for Schenectady; it’s often quite the opposite.
“I hope that there aren’t other people who think I really dislike this city because I don’t,” Giacalone said. “There isn’t a city in the world that doesn’t have people complaining about how dumb City Hall is.”
Giacalone, a former antitrust lawyer, has lived in Schenectady for the last three decades, after moving here from Washington, D.C. When he was still practicing law, he hardly had a chance to get out of the office and explore.
However, health issues forced him into early retirement and he discovered photography, thanks to Yu Chang, a former Union College engineering professor, who gave Giacalone his first camera.
“One short photoshoot in my Washington Ave. yard along the Mohawk quickly convinced me the Stockade and Mohawk River have a lot of beauty that is pretty photogenic, even under the eye of a beginner,” Giacalone said.
Since starting around 2003, he’s taken more than 2,000 photos around the area, sharing them on his website (GiacalonePhotos.com) and at times publishing them in The Stockade Spy (see historicstockade.org).
Over the years of dealing with health issues, having a relatively cheap hobby has helped.
“That’s helped a whole lot because, when I got sick, I had no pension, and it was 25 years sooner than I should have been retiring,” Giacalone said. “I bumped into a hobby that lets me express myself without having to spend a lot of money.”
He often takes photos of everyday scenes around the city, as well as annual traditions in the area, including the Stockade Art Show and the Independence Day fireworks show at Jumpin’ Jack’s.
The photos featured in the show are all on canvas and many have a hazy quality to them. One reflects Riverside Park after a flood, with the playground partly submerged and a piercing blue sky reflected in the water.
Another features a heron, perched atop a branch in the river.
“That was the most serendipitously lucky picture I ever took in my life,” Giacalone said.
When he first noticed the bird under the West Gateway Bridge, he didn’t have his camera. So he ran back to his building to get it.
“When I got that, that bird was exactly at my backyard. If I had been three seconds later, I would not have gotten that,” Giacalone said.
Other photos show the blushing blossoms of the cherry trees around the Stockade.
“I love taking pictures of them,” Giacalone said.
He doesn’t usually sell his work and the show at Moon and River is his first show.
“This is happening rather late in life that I’m having an exhibit at 73, but I’m really glad that it has and people have been reacting really nicely to it,” Giacalone said.
There will be a reception on Tuesday from 6-8 p.m. with jazz by the Dave Kitchen Trio. Giacalone will share some of the stories behind the photos. The show will be up through the month of April. For more on his work visit GiacalonePhotos.com.
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